March is Disability Awareness Month in Indiana. I have a lot of passion for Disability Awareness, as it impacts my family on a daily basis. My long-time readers are aware of this, but those of you knew to the blog may not. My wife has Multiple Sclerosis and I am her caregiver. I have spoken quite often about my role as a caregiver and its impact on my hobbies and freelancing. I am proud that my home state has a month they focus on awareness and I want to take a moment to speak on disability awareness.
Led by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities, the goal of Disability Awareness Month is to increase awareness and promote independence, integration and inclusion of all people with disabilities.
The 2018 Disability Awareness month campaign theme is “Be Cool. We Are.” No matter the differences between people, it is always better to treat others the way you want to be treated, and this is especially true when interacting with friends, co-workers, and other Hoosiers who live with disabilities. The 2018 Indiana Disability Awareness Month campaign theme – Be Cool. We are. – is all about the importance of being comfortable in your own skin and making the conscious decision to be yourself, because acting different around someone with a disability isn’t cool.
Disability may impact your and your loved ones personally, or it might be something you are only peripherally aware of. I want to encourage and challenge each of you in very specific ways.
- Game Designers and Publishers – Please be aware of disabilities as you design and publish your games. Consider things such as color blindness and manual dexterity as you design the components and colors of your games. If your game includes imagery of people, consider representing those with disabilities with someone in a wheelchair, an assistance dog, cane, or other item that visually represents a disability. I realize not every game will be playable or enjoyable for everyone, but just a few minor tweaks like larger fonts, color blind-friendly components, larger components, and representation in games can go a long way to gaining your game and company more fans and customers.
- Game Stores and Game Cafes – Please have ramps into your store and keep your aisles wide enough for a wheelchair (or even a stroller for families). I realize you often have smaller spaces with lots of games and miniatures to shelve. Space management is a challenge. But if you want potential customers to browse, shop, and play games in your location, you have to make the space accessible. Narrow aisles, stacks of game boxes, and precarious displays are impossible for people in a wheelchair to traverse.
- Personally – Be respectful of those with disabilities, even ones that might not be easily visible upon first glance. I cannot tell you how often we struggle with handicap parking spots being taken by non-accessible tagged vehicles, or full of shopping carts, or full of snow piles. We need those parking spots to be able to access safely our destinations. We are challenged by handicap accessible bathrooms being out of order or two small for a wheelchair. There is also the challenge of people not even seeing my wife in her wheelchair. People try to jump over her feet, bump into the wheelchair when they are not looking, or completely ignoring my wife in her wheelchair and talking over her to me when they are asking questions about her. I ask you to take the time to notice those around you with disabilities and provide them the respect you would like to receive.
I do want to give some praise to people who have done an excellent job so you can see some positive experiences with disability awareness in the game industry.
- Gen Con Staff and Volunteers – Each year we are blessed with how the Gen Con staff and volunteers work hard to make Gen Con a great accessible experience for us. They have a Special Services desk which helps us with our event tickets and con services. The staff and volunteers open doors for us, help us through crowds, and help us in lines to events. Over the past few years we have seen more attendees in wheelchairs, with canes, and with walkers, and it is great to see them enjoying the con as much as we do.
- Jeff Gracia of Greenbrier Games - We will forever remember the first time my family met Jeff Gracia. He was demoing his upcoming Kickstarter Game, Ninja Dice, on a tall table. My daughters and I were very interested in the game so we walked up to see the demo but Angie couldn’t because the table was so tall. Without us even asking, Jeff grabbed the lid of a Zpocalypse game box and brought it down to sit on the arms of my wife’s wheelchair. He then spent time demoing the game at a level my wife could enjoy it as well. Needless to say, we backed that Kickstarter later and still enjoy playing that dice game to this day. We have also become huge fans of Greenbrier Games, even assisting them in their booth at times. All because Jeff took the extra time to make a demo accessible to my wife in her wheelchair.
- Topiary’s Wheelchair Meeple – Renegade Games recently released the game Topiary, and it includes a meeple of a person in a wheelchair (green). This is the first tabletop game I am aware of that has a disability awareness player piece. Rather than go with standard meeples, Renegade Games took the time to reach out to the community and design this special meeple.
As you can see, with just a little effort you can really include those with disabilities. Please, make the effort to be aware of those around you. From obvious accessibility challenges such as wheelchairs and walkers to more invisible issues such as chronic fatigue and pain, your efforts and respect can go a long way to making the lives and experiences of others so much better.
Have their been people or organizations that have really made the extra effort toward accessibility awareness? Please thank them personally and perhaps give them a little praise here in the comments for others to hear the story.